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Texas takes on Australian flavor

Texas takes on Australian flavor
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Swing coach Hank Haney had an awkward split with pupil Tiger Woods

After watching golf this past weekend, there haven’t been so many displays of overt AustraliaMania since I wore my “Crocodile Dundee” leather vest to a Men at Work show while listening to Olivia Newton John 8-tracks en route.

Now that we’ve dispensed with the lame “Outdated Aussie Pop Culture” part of the column, we can dive into Adam Scott’s “Remember Me?” win at the Valero Texas Open.

It really was Aussie Week on Tour. Greg Norman, the de facto King of Australia, designed the new golf course on the San Antonio stop, TPC San Antonio, a welcome addition to the fold with its heavy bunkering and layout that incorporated the shrubby landscape of Texas. And Ian Baker Finch, the Dark Shark himself and another Aussie major winner, sat in for an absent Nick Faldo in CBS’ broadcast booth.

Moreover, the first-round leader was a Down Under product named Matt Jones, kicking off the Australia-looks-like-Texas theme of the week. (I will admit, this thought had never crossed my mind, but then again, I hail from neither Texas nor Australia, so who am I to doubt Baker-Finch when he tells us Aussies feel at home in the Lone Star State?)

And Sunday brought us the long-lost sights of Scott and Aaron Baddeley’s walkabout atop the leader board, starring in their own new film “Return of the Forgotten Aussie.”

We had all forgotten about Scott and “Badds”, who were supposed to be the Next Big Things in golf. But we know how those Next Big Things turn out sometimes, as I was just saying to my friend, Ty Tryon.

Scott and Baddeley were less Next Big Thing than Yesterday’s Overlooked Thing before Norman’s design waltzed their inner Matilda. They said the feel, the look, the layout of TPC San Antonio made them feel like they were playing a golf course south of Melbourne. So, if the City of San Antonio is hurting for a new tourism slogan, there you go: “San Antonio: America’s Answer to Somewhere South of Melbourne.”

It was Scott who prevailed, of course, with a 66-67 day of 36 holes on Sunday, as forced by inclement weather on Friday. That’s some brilliant golf, and so much of it was a reminder of why we fell in love with Scott’s game in the early part of the last decade: the Tiger-esque swing, the precise irons, the implacable demeanor, the female-friendly sense of style.

Yes, chicks dig Adam Scott. Then again, an Aussie accent puts any guy well ahead of the pack when it comes to vying for female companionship, so that’s sort of not fair.

If Scott had a weakness, it was the putter. Unfortunately for him, though, his whole game went south with the putter after his last win, waaaaaay back at the ’08 Byron Nelson, a little over 2 years ago.

It had gotten ugly for Scott, too. Not only did he miss six consecutive cuts in 2009, the streak included the Masters and The Players Championship. He would miss 9 of 13 cuts at one point, adding the Memorial and British Open to the prominent ‘MC’s of his freefall, and confidence was gone.

He played better at the Masters this year, notching a top-20, but the putter remained an issue. Then, putting Yoda Dave Stockton worked with him after a missed-cut at Quail Hollow, and you saw the results in San Antonio – Scott didn’t miss a putt inside 6 feet all week.

Or, to be more accurate, Scott didn’t miss a putt inside 6 feet all week – until it mattered most.

Then, at the 72nd hole, from 4 feet, 10 inches, he made a jabby, pully, mess of a thing – he called it “a bit of a disaster” – for a bogey that opened the door to a possible playoff with Freddy (The Swedish Seve) Jacobson.

The sounds from the CBS booth let you know how little confidence the pundits had in Scott’s ability to close. After Scott’s approach on 18 found a greenside bunker, the normally upbeat Jim Nantz opined, “Let’s not give away any trophies just yet,” channeling his inner Wolf from “Pulp Fiction.”

And when Scott missed that 58-incher, Nantz’s pained “Oh my word” exclamation let everyone know that Scott’s 2-year drought may continue. Even Baker-Finch, rooting on his homeboy in unofficial Aussie Week, let loose with a somber “Oh, boy” at Scott’s miss. (We will note that, in an Australian accent, it sounded more poetic than we’re letting on.)

All’s well, though, that ends with a check for $1.07 million. Jacobson did not birdie 18, and Scott rejoined the list of “Players to Watch” at Pebble Beach next week.

That’s good news, because of late, it’s been a rough deal for Australians. They’re proud sportsmen who brag on their prowess not only at surfing and Aussie Rules Football, but golf, also, for the love of Peter Thomson. Lately, though, they’ve been Down Under-dogs.

Right now, only Robert Allenby (12th) is in the top 15. Former U.S. Open champ Geoff Ogilvy is 19th, but until Scott’s win, that was it for Australia and the top 40. Scott’s win vaults him to 36th, back in the top 40, an appropriate salute to a week that was Australia’s from the beginning, more “Oi, Oi, Oi!” than “Oy, oy, oy.”

SCORECARD OF THE WEEK

69-66-68 – 13-under 203, Se Ri Pak, winner, playoff, Crossings Course at Magnolia Grove, RTJ Golf Trail, LPGA Bell Micro Classic.

Speaking of golfers we thought had moved to Bolivia, never to be heard from again: Congrats go out to Se Ri Pak.

It’s good to see the million-watt smile on Pak on such a somber week for the LPGA, mourning the untimely death of 25-year-old Erica Blasberg. Pak is a feel-good story, beating out Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen on the third hole of a playoff for her first win since 2007.

Pak did her fellow Korean Ji-Yai Shin a favor with the win. A Pettersen win would have likely vaulted the Swede to Shin’s No. 1 spot in the world. As is, Pettersen – along with No. 1 contenders Ai Miyazato and Yani Tseng – must cool her heels, something she apparently needs time for after blowing off reporters.

I’m thinking the LPGA, struggling for sponsors and TV time and attention in the post-Lorena, post-economic downturn world, doesn’t need one of the world’s best players blowing past media after one of their rare golf tournaments on American soil. It’s bad enough that we can’t hardly ever see the women play – although they are in New Jersey this week, which is good – but nobody needs angry Suzann Pettersens stomping away without a little face time.

BROADCAST MOMENT OF THE WEEK

“The only thing I knew about was his issue with the sex addiction.” – Hank Haney, on The Golf Channel, talking to Jim Gray, about his ex-pupil Tiger Woods.

And with friends like that, who needs Phil Mickelson?

Now, only guessing here, but as a keen student of human nature, I would think that Haney knows, fairly well, that Tiger has repeated on many occasions that he did not want to divulge the addiction for which he is being treated.

And again, only guessing here, but I would think Haney knows Tiger would rather not have Hank Haney telling Jim Gray – and the world – that Tiger is being treated for sex addiction.

And again, only guessing here, but I would think – remember, I’m a keen student of human nature – Hank Haney wouldn’t say such a thing unless maybe he had a small bone to pick with Tiger.

Oh, by the way, Haney also told The Golf Channel that he would rather have had Tiger defend him more vigorously when they worked together.

Coincidence? As they used to say on the commercials: You make the call!

So, this is what it’s come to for Tiger. Six months ago, the guy’s stock was the highest in the world, maybe the highest in sporting history. Six months later, his ex-swing coach is telling the world that he dumped Tiger by text (“We’re done,” he texted), and then dropped the “sex addiction” bomb on Jim Gray.

I know, I know, we all presumed it was for sex addiction. But that doesn’t mean Haney had to go out and say it.

Will the last friend in Tiger’s world please turn out the lights when he or she leaves?

I’m starting to feel sorry for the guy.

MULLIGAN OF THE WEEK

The story of Scott’s win would have been so much more poetic – and easy to hail – had he made that little 4-foot, 10-incher on the 72nd hole. As a golf observer/pundit/columnist/wag, you’re always looking for tidy storylines, from which you draw grand conclusions, conclusions you’re likely to toss aside a week later when everything changes.

If Scott had made that putt, he’d safely have kept a two-stroke lead on Jacobson, and more importantly, could have done the double-arm raise, putter-aloft, photo-friendly scene of triumph on the 18th green.

As it was, his win was accompanied by the low sound of a golf crowd murmuring “Oooooh”, when he missed it. If you’re a highly paid professional golfer late on a Sunday, you never want to hear the low sound of a golf crowd murmuring “Oooooh.”

So, for the sake of a storyline, and happy endings, let’s trot out there and put Adam Scott’s golf ball 4 feet, 10 inches away from the cup and … give that man a mulligan!

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

To Irving, Texas for the Byron Nelson, where we still miss the sight of Lord Byron, in the easy chair by the 18th green, getting his ring kissed by all the players, like a Texan version of Don Corleone at a wedding.

It’s a pretty light field, headlined by defending champ Rory Sabbatini. Rickie Fowler is playing, and let’s say it would be a nice week for a breakthrough ‘W’ for the guy in clown orange.